Autism Spectrum Disorder and how sport has changed my life by Cameron Steer
With April being Autism Month our Sports Ambassador and Sports Reporter Cameron Steer reflects on his own experiences as a young Scot now living in the USA who was diagnosed at a young age with Autism Spectrum Disorder . Cameron reflects on how the positive influences of sport, education and participating in sport at national level for Scotland have all been positive experiences for him in his journey.
When I was younger my I found it challenging at times to fit in with other boys and being able to relate to them. Being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s at the time) meant that I always fell out of place or that I wasn’t like other lads my age. Due to this I picked up football at the start of high school as a coping mechanism and as a way of trying to fit in, despite my coordination issues at the time.To begin with I found it very challenging but like I do with everything I put my heart and soul into it and began to obsess about it and how I could get improve and get better at it. I began to take a really keen interest in running and going to the gym to improve my fitness as well as playing lots of football. The more I gave myself to it the more I enjoyed it and got from it.
This really developed my confidence and I seemed to enjoy not only sport more but just being around other young people, making friends and enjoying playing sports with them. There was a direct correlation between me improving my fitness, skills and my confidence. I started to really feel myself growing as a person and my confidence in myself became something I could feel assured in – something I have battled with my whole life!
In hindsight, I believe that it was my ability to play football and the obsessive quality of my Asperger’s that improved my social issues. This obsession for sport began to really help me to overcome the more debilitating aspects of my condition, it was something I could control and that made me feel great! I have made a lot of positive connections with other people through sport, friendships that mean a great deal to me and I have learned from many great coaches who have become real role models for me and all very encouraging to my personal development. The opportunities I have had through sports have been integral to where I am today. I’ve had the opportunity to perform at national level for Scotland in both football and lacrosse, I never thought I would have these kind of opportunities but here I am having represented Scotland and I couldn’t be prouder or more grateful.
I am now in my senior year on a psychology major at Medaille College in Buffalo, New York. My passion for sports as well as my love for the United States of America brought me here and being a young Scot studying and living here is a dream come true it really is. I have to thank everyone who ever encouraged me, gave me an opportunity and told me that I could achieve my ambitions. My family have been and continue to be the greatest supporters I could wish for and I’m so grateful to them. Truly I always had it in me but support from other people is so important to grow and develop and everyone deserves that opportunity. Now in my senior year as a psychology major, I am writing my honors capstone dissertation on ‘Sport as a non-medical therapeutic approach to dealing with ASD symptomatology”. This has been particularly interesting to me as it has opened my eyes to many elements of ASD that I was not previously aware of.
This has been a crucial stage in my development into adulthood as it makes me think introspectively and learn a lot about myself as I grow into a man. One thing that I have always known is that sport is such a great platform for self development and confidence building. Teamwork, having common goals and successes with others are things that apply in all walks of life and not just sport.
I have said before that I don’t know who I would be without my condition, it is something I have learned to live with, grow with and adapt with, all important things in life that have given me some great life lessons along the way. It has without a doubt helped me develop into who I am today, and to learn how to cope with a lot of the negative and tough aspects of being diagnosed with ASD. I hope that with this dissertation I can provide some links and highlight a gap in current research showing that we should use a variety of different sports in order to help autistic people deal with the symptoms of this condition. So far, the research I am undertaking is showing that sport has many different benefits on motor skills, social skills, fitness and general quality of life for people with autism – every area that I feel personally has been ameliorated in my life due to my participation in sport.
For any young person or emerging adolescent with Asperger’s reading this, my advice to you would be to find something you are passionate about and to keep working at it and never give up. If you keep trying your best and put your heart into it, you will improve and you will see results and the results may surprise you! Life is all about what you give and through sports and studying psychology I’ve found something that I can really give myself to. I hope to be able to support and inspire others through telling my story and in future hope to actively support those who have a similar journey to myself.
I’m very grateful to be in a position in which I can share my story with others and hope to inspire children with ASD who will go through many similar experiences as I have in my life. I hope that my personal anecdote helps to raise some awareness that great things are possible of those on the spectrum granted they are given the correct opportunities for them in life.
Cameron Steer recently took part in a panel as part of New York Tartan Week to discuss his experiences as a young person in the Scottish diaspora here in the United States. Chaired by Bob Creighton the panel reflected on the experiences and insights from leading young people in the American Scottish community and Cameron reflected on how his education, sport and involvement with the American Scottish Foundation have been helping him to grow and engage with the wider community. Cameron reports regularly on Scottish sport for the American Scottish Foundation and we are very proud to have him as an ambassador.